Watching Tina Turner perform is like watching a tornado traverse the landscape as it builds in power and intensity. Turner doesn’t destroy everything in her path, but she does uproot. On Sunday, the first of her five-night stand in L.A., the chardonnay and cappuccino crowd spent little time in their seats. Yet, despite Turner’s innate dynamism, showmanship and in-your-face style, her performance at times was predictable.
Turner descended a long, metal staircase that looked as though it belonged on the set of “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome,” and immediately set the tone of the fast-paced show. “You want some action?,” she asked the audience in her trademark growl, then launched into her nearly two-hour set of old and more recent songs.
With the exception of her performance during the poignant “Private Dancer,” her movement was continuous throughout the show.
Turner is a physical performer, and her movements were reminiscent of Muhammad Ali at his prime, as she strutted and high-stepped in three-inch heels that accentuated her famous legs.
But at the same time, this whirling dervish emphasis on displaying her physicality and inability to settle down for even a minute was distracting.
It made her seem breathless and sound more hoarse than usual.
Among the set’s highlights were her vocally sinewy performances of “I Can’t Stop the Rain” and the sexy and romantic “Let’s Stay Together.”
Turner teased and played with her band members, particularly guitarists John Miles, Bob Feit and James Ralston, who whooped and hollered during a call-and-response segment of “Rain” and the hard-rocking “Nutbush City Limits.”
Acknowledging her days in the Ike and Tina Revue, Turner took everyone back to the ’60s with “Proud Mary.”
After all these years, her dance steps during the song’s bridgeremain the same, cementing “Proud Mary” as Turner’s musical cornerstone.
During “What’s Love Got to Do With It?,” Turner initiated a battle of the sexes when she asked the women in the audience to sing the main line “with attitude” and the male members to sing as if they were chanting at a Trojan game. Feeling that the men responded weakly, Turner told them, “Hmmm … don’t sound like my kind of man.”
Opening act Chris Isaak, whose latest Warner Bros. release is “San Francisco Days,” was backed by his rockabilly band, making for a study in contrasts.
Isaak leans toward a country-influenced, loveless and lonely cowpoke sound. Dressed in a mirror-spangled suit, Isaak breezily gifted the audience with “Two Hearts,””No, I Won’t Fall in Love With You,” and “Wild Love.”
Saxophonist Johnny Reno’s impassioned playing during “I Want Your Love” enlivened an otherwise laid-back set.